In case of emergency …
Helicopter loadmaster Sgt Sam Riordan surveys White Island from the NH90 during a reconnaissance flight prior to lifting in the container.
The RNZAF recently airlifted a 2.4t shipping container to volcanic White Island, some 50km out from Whakatane, to provide an emergency shelter in case of an eruption.
An NH90 helicopter from Ohakea-based 3 Squadron lifted the 6m container to the island from Whakatane Airport and placed it on an old mining site to provide a natural protective barrier in case of a volcanic eruption. This action helped address what has been a long-standing concern of communities as well as police and emergency management authorities in the Bay of Plenty.
An RNZAF spokesman said, “The airlifting of the container is the latest example of how the NZDF assists our communities and other government agencies, and the task was the latest demonstration of the NH90’s range and lift capacity.”
NH90 captain Flt Lt James Mackenzie said, “It is important to our training that we get to lift large and heavy loads that challenge the range and lift capacity of the NH90. A task like this prepares us to conduct more complex tasks when we go on operations, whether it is humanitarian assistance and disaster relief or stability and support operations.
“It also gives us another opportunity to operate with personnel from the Army’s 5 Movements Company who assisted in preparing the load.”
A continuously active volcano, White Island is visited by more than 10,000 tourists every year. It fluctuates through periods of increased and reduced activity, last erupting in April.
The container will give people a safe area to go to in the event of a volcanic eruption or an emergency event, and it will also be used to store safety gear, spare clothing, food supplies and emergency and rescue items.
For some time GNS Science, New Zealand Police, other partner agencies and tour operators have been expressing the need to improve the safety of visitors to White Island. The provision of the container is another step towards ensuring these groups are better prepared for an event which may impact visitors.
The RNZAF has introduced eight NH90s into service since 2013 to perform a wide range of roles in New Zealand and overseas. With sophisticated systems and greater capacity than its predecessor, the NH90 is able to carry up to 19 passengers or undersling artillery items in support of combat operations.
The NH90s are used for SAR missions, transporting military and government personnel and lifting equipment while also maintaining a counter-terrorism response. In July Aviation News reported the shifting of a 1.7t DoC hut sitting on an active slip in Marlborough’s Mt Richmond Forest Park to safer ground.
- Report by John King, photography by Cpl Brad Hanson/NZDF.
» Summer success at the Walsh
» The luxury of living in the Ivory Tower
» Comper moves swiftly
» UAV usefulness increasing
» Woodville’s even dozen
» 60th birthday party for ZK-BNL
» New airline MRO facility
» Hands across the Southern Alps
» Praise earned in tough place